It was almost a month ago when the clock struck midnight ET on July 1 and the offers and subterfuge started flying.
The Trail Blazers were the first team to step boldly into the last free-agent negotiating period before the summer of LeBron, making what seemed to be an offer that Hedo Turkoglu couldn't refuse. This week, the Blazers finally signed a free agent -- and it was Andre Miller, not Turkoglu.
|Hedo Turkoglu's tour took him from Orlando to Porland to Toronto. (Getty Images)|
Four weeks later, the dominoes are still tumbling. Carlos Boozer remains in limbo with the Jazz, Lamar Odom finally chose the Lakers over the Heat, and Allen Iverson awaits word on whether he'll spend the 2009-10 season going through the motions in Memphis or hunkering down for retirement.
But with most of the big moves done, it's time to untangle the sometimes thrilling, always busy and often confusing 2009 NBA offseason with my Winners, Losers, Works in Progress and Non-Factors:
|Bass, Carter and Anderson|
Lakers: Signing Ron Artest was a bold pre-emptive strike in anticipation of losing Trevor Ariza. Ron-Ron will give Phil Jackson some headaches, but will be worth the risk. The biggest coup, however, was retaining Odom, one of the key pieces in the Lakers' championship run.
|Gordon and Villanueva|
Pistons: The Dumars bashing won't stop, I suppose, until Chauncey Billups is collecting Social Security. Given the choice of getting left out of the 2010 free-agent frenzy, Dumars decided to strike now with Gordon and Villanueva. I'm not a huge Charlie V fan, and I wonder how new coach John Kuester is going to manage a three-headed backcourt with Gordon, Rip Hamilton, and Rodney Stuckey (Dumars, for the record, envisions it as a replica of the Dumars-Isiah Thomas-Vinnie Johnson tandem from the Bad Boys era, with Gordon playing the "Microwave" role off the bench). Dumars' draft picks, Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers, were stellar at the Vegas summer league. Chris Wilcox will prove to be a shrewd addition.
Raptors: GM Bryan Colangelo pulled off a coup by stealing Turkoglu from the Blazers, but then overpaid Jarrett Jack -- something you often have to do in order to lure a restricted free agent. First-round pick DeMar DeRozan excelled in Vegas. If Andrea Bargnani (five-year, $50 million extension) continues to improve, the Raptors could be back in the playoff hunt.
Wizards: With the acquisition of Mike Miller and Randy Foye to go with the hiring of playoff-tested coach Flip Saunders, the Wizards are poised for the postseason if -- and this is a big if -- Gilbert Arenas returns to elite form after knee injuries rendered him useless for the past two seasons. As a tax-paying team in a bad economy, nobody needs a playoff berth more.
Hornets: New Orleans finally unloaded Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor, a double-double machine who is more reliable and a better defender. He's also due $63 million over the next five seasons. But you can't win in the West without an intimidating basket-defender, and those don't come cheap. First-round pick Darren Collison is the perfect backup for Chris Paul.
Trail Blazers: Through no fault of his own, GM Kevin Pritchard lost out on his top two free-agent targets (Turkoglu and restricted free agent Paul Millsap), then had to settle for No. 3 -- Miller, who will stabilize the point guard position. It's hard to penalize a team for trying, but adding Turkoglu would've pushed the Blazers into the Western Conference elite. It was a missed opportunity that won't come up again, because Portland needs its cap space to sign Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to extensions next summer.
Nets: With Carter gone and their dream of moving to a new arena in Brooklyn still on life support, the Nets might as well fly a white flag outside the IZOD Center. Is it any wonder that owner Bruce Ratner reportedly is looking to sell the team? As long as it's playing in New Jersey, who would buy it?
Timberwolves: I can't bring myself to remove the T-Wolves from the losers' list without witnessing the hidden genius behind GM David Kahn's decision to draft Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. With Rubio perhaps staying overseas for at least two more years, it'll be a long wait. Oh, it also would be helpful to know who the coach will be.
Works in Progress
Jazz: Utah re-signed Mehmet Okur, retained Millsap and can wait until the trade deadline to unload Boozer. GM Kevin O'Connor can afford to let the trade market come to him, but can't wait too long and get stuck with a huge luxury-tax bill.
Heat: Pat Riley is on notice to give Dwyane Wade championship-caliber talent or watch him leave as a free agent next July. The Heat would've moved from non-factor to winner if they could've closed the deal with Odom.
Mavericks: I love Cuban's aggressive posture; at a time when so many teams were sitting on their checkbooks and/or dumping salary, the Mavs' billionaire owner was actively trying to make his team better. Re-signing Kidd was a must, but I'm not sold on Shawn Marion as the missing piece. The onus is on the Matrix to prove that he's more than a Mike D'Antoni production who hasn't consistently thrived since leaving Phoenix. This week, the Mavs added Tim Thomas, who is more effective than his blasé attitude would suggest. Drew Gooden will have to serve as a poor man's Bass. A very poor man.
Suns: Phoenix didn't trade Amare Stoudemire and now must wait for him to pull through a delicate recovery from offseason eye surgery. For weeks after the procedure to repair a partially detached retina in his right eye, Stoudemire had to remain immobile on his stomach for as many hours as possible per day. Sounds arduous, but not nearly as bad as the Suns moving forward without point guard Steve Nash, who agreed to a two-year, $22 million extension. Combine that with applying the Big Eraser to the Shaq mistake, signing role player Channing Frye and drafting Earl Clark, and the Suns had a quietly productive summer.
Nuggets: Reigning executive of the year Mark Warkentien re-signed Chris "Birdman" Andersen, traded for a backup point guard (Ty Lawson), and lost Dahntay Jones to the Pacers. Warkentien will find someone else to be Dahntay Jones.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti has been a model of patience this summer, so an argument can be made that the Thunder belong on the winner's list. OKC added an elite shooting guard in No. 3 pick James Harden, finding a good reason to avoid the Rubio controversy. More importantly, Presti thus far has resisted the temptation to make Oklahoma City a dumping ground for bad contracts in lopsided, three-team trade proposals that rival GMs have been tossing his way. OKC's roster is young and filled with talent, but it's also among the most cap-flexible in the league.
Kings: No. 4 pick Tyreke Evans was extremely impressive in Vegas, and the Kings realized that it was prudent to stay on the sideline in an unimpressive free-agent summer. Sean May was worth a gamble, but Sactown's biggest offseason acquisition is 58 years old -- coach Paul Westphal.
Pacers: By buying out Jamaal Tinsley and declining Marquis Daniels' option, the Pacers took the final steps toward emerging from a recent past that includes more off-court distractions than on-court accomplishments. Larry Bird also added a hard-nosed defender in Jones, and pulled off a bit of a head-scratcher by drafting Tyler Hansbrough 13th overall. But Hansbrough was solid at Orlando summer league, and Roy Hibbert was dominant. So maybe there's hope.
Bucks: Milwaukee gave away Jefferson, let Villanueva become an unrestricted free agent and won't necessarily match any big-ticket offers for RFA Ramon Sessions. GM John Hammond's hands were tied; he had no choice but to hold the line on payroll. That's why he could barely contain his exuberance with No. 10 pick Brandon Jennings' eye-catching performance at Vegas summer league. And if Scott Skiles can corral the cocky Jennings, the Bucks could be a low-budget success story without spending a dime on free agents.
Warriors: Non-factor sounds about right for the Warriors, but there might be some hope if Anthony Randolph's dominant summer league performance was any indication. No. 7 pick Stephen Curry has the potential to be a star, but is he any more of a point guard than Monta Ellis? The NBA needs the Warriors, if for no other reason than dysfunction is fun to watch.
Knicks: Is 2010 here yet? For those who didn't believe Donnie Walsh when he promised fiscal responsibility for the perennially spend-happy Knicks, this summer of inactivity was your proof. But Walsh's work is far from done. Now all he has to do is find someone to take Eddy Curry. As for RFAs David Lee and Nate Robinson: My guess is that both return on one-year qualifiers.
Bulls: Chicago needed to add a scoring threat to replace Gordon, but all the Bulls have come up with was a backup point guard, Jannero Pargo.
Sixers: Philly let Miller sign with the Blazers and decided to hand the point guard spot to Lou Williams and first-round pick Jrue Holiday. The Sixers also added sharpshooter Jason Kapono, who should give a healthy Elton Brand some space to operate in the post.
Bobcats: I can't think of any reason to trade Okafor for Chandler -- at least a reason that doesn't begin with a dollar sign.
All photos from Getty Images.